Benefits of using an RFID scanner

You don't have to use an RFID scanner, but they offer benefits which include:

  • eliminating human error — this can be a problem when you write down tag numbers
  • reading the tag number correctly even if the tag is covered in dirt, mud or excrement
  • improving safety by reducing close contact with your animals — a scanner picks up tag signals at a distance of between 30cm and 90cm.
  • being able to use the data in conjunction with other on-farm tools and software — this helps to improve individual animal records and production.

RFID technology can help with recording individual animal details, such as their weight, veterinary treatment and breeding information.

Getting data from your scanner into your NAIT account

RFID scanners generally come with their own computer compatibility options.

After you've scanned your animals, you can upload tag number files from your tag reader to your computer using a USB connection.

You can then upload the data from your computer to your NAIT account, as long as it's correctly formatted.

Choosing an RFID scanner

There are many brands and types of RFID tag scanners, so choose one that is most suited to your farming practice. Most brands are available from your local rural supply store or you can buy them online.

Types of RFID scanners

There are 3 main types of scanners:

  • portable mini RFID scanner
  • portable RFID wand or stick scanner
  • fixed-panel RFID scanner.

Portable mini RFID scanners

Portable mini RFID scanners are smaller and cheaper than wand scanners. This means you need to be closer to stock to read their tag. They are the best option for smaller herds or lifestyle farmers.

Not all models have rechargeable batteries or can connect to smartphones, and they may not be able to connect via wireless.

Prices generally range from $350 to $500 (plus GST).

Portable RFID wand or stick scanners

Portable RFID stick readers are the most commonly used readers on farms and you can operate them from a safe distance. They are larger and more durable than mini RFID readers, and come in a wide variety to suit your herd size and farming practice.

Most models:

  • are wireless and bluetooth capable
  • come with their own smartphone app which can send data directly to NAIT
  • have rechargeable batteries.

Prices generally range from $1000 to $2500 (plus GST).

Fixed-panel RFID scanner

Fixed-panel RFID scanners are the largest and most expensive option, and require a larger power source. They are:

  • effective for reading stock moving into or through a fixed point — such as weigh scales, a race or a crush
  • ideal for reading large numbers of stock which is why they're often used by saleyards.

You can:

  • link them to weigh scales and other animal handling facilities, and
  • read tags from a greater distance than you can with hand-held scanners.

Prices generally range from $2800 to $3750 (plus GST)

Types of RFID tags

NAIT tags come in 2 broad types — HDX and FDX. This relates to the way they operate when they're scanned by an RFID scanner. They differ in price and functionality. You can choose either option for your NAIT-approved tags.

They work best if your RFID scanner is tuned to that type of tag.

Half duplex (HDX)

HDX tags are higher performing and can read tags from further away. They are a popular choice for dairy farmers.

They have protection from outside interference — for example, some older cattle crushes with a lot of metal noise are better suited to HDX. Some on-farm automation systems, like Protrack, will only work with HDX tags.

HDX tags must recharge and wait until your scanner is in 'listen' mode before they can receive data.

Full duplex (FDX)

FDX tags transmit their data to the scanner as long as they are in the read field of the antenna. They are suited to most sheep and beef, deer shed and sheep environments, and meet the minimum requirements for NAIT compliance.

They have no protection from outside interference.